Actor? Student? Get involved in your university drama society

7 May

ADC Theatre – home of the Cambridge Footlights

Ah, your student days – a time to party hard, make great friends and eat too many baked beans. But also an ideal place to pursue an interest in acting and to experiment without the pressure of failing. Remember, you don’t have to be a drama student to join a drama society or appear in a play.

Harry Michell, an English student at Cambridge University, and president of Cambridge Footlights – a comedy and theatre society run by students – chats to us about why university is the perfect time to get involved. 

How did you get involved with drama and the drama societies at university?

I wanted to get involved in drama/comedy before I arrived at uni and have known for a while that it’s something I’d like to pursue in the future. There are so many ways to get involved here. I started by auditioning for lots of plays and directing the Freshers Show; my previous experience at school and at the Edinburgh Fringe meant I had a slight advantage to some freshers who were just trying out drama for the first time. However, there are so many opportunities here that the advantage was minimal.

Do you mainly act or direct?

I like to make sure I act, direct and write at least once at term, as well as writing and performing comedy every couple of weeks. I think there is no point closing potential doors when I enjoy doing all three, and each role informs how I approach the others.

Is getting involved in theatre at university a good way to break into the industry?

It can be a fantastic way. Obviously it’s a very difficult field to get into, and luck plays such a huge factor, but you learn an incredible amount in such a short space of time. You also come to understand exactly how a theatre works which is something you don’t necessarily get the chance to if you go straight to drama school. Having said that, I think it also depends on which element of theatre you’re planning on going into; most actors generally leave here and go to drama school, whereas comedians generally get signed up immediately.

What would you say to people who say they are too busy to join a society but still want to pursue an acting career?

Well, you do hear stories every now and then about people who didn’t do much when they were younger but then discover acting in their twenties/thirties, but acting/directing/writing is a craft, and generally without practise and development and enthusiasm from a younger age, how can you expect a career to come of it? Also, university is a time when you can experiment and make mistakes, if you do this in the ‘real world’ it could potentially jeopardise your career, so why not take advantage of the artistic freedom uni can give you?

Are there other benefits in getting involved?

Yes definitely; it keeps you going, gives you stuff to do other than work. You join a community with people who are like minded and share similar interests – it stops you from merely staying within your college/halls.

How would you recommend someone go about getting involved? 

Just be proactive. Audition for everything, apply for anything, write things. Every time you get turned down turn it into a positive. If you don’t get cast in anything, put on your own show. If you can’t get a theatre space, put on a show somewhere strange. Be creative, you’ll constantly be knocked back, and the successful ones are those who get back up immediately and try another route.

What would you say to people who are nervous/shy about approaching a society or club?

Just go for it. In all likelihood everybody else is as nervous as you are, and you’re probably just as talented. If you don’t try you’ll spend the rest of your days (slightly hyperbolic but still…) wishing that you did.

Have any of you had similar experiences to Harry? Are any of you hoping to get involved with a drama society? Get in touch below.

Image by James Bowe from Flickr via a CC Licence.


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